Seán O’Connor’s The Mongrel

The Mongrel
Matador – 2018

A horror novel about a Dubliner getting stranded in the Wicklow mountains, written by a Dublin author who plays in heavy metal bands? I really wanted to like this book. Truly, I did. Unfortunately though, it’s not very good.

There’s 4 main parts to this story. The first part, the argument between the protagonist and her boyfriend, is unnecessary and could have been worked into a flashback in the second part where they go on a reconciliatory drive in the mountains. Show, don’t tell. The third section is passable survival fiction and provides the only excitement in the book. The pregnant protagonist is stranded in a broken-down car with with a hungry wolf outside. Things get gooey. The final section descends into utter nonsense. An utterly unbelievable supernatural element is thrown in, and the plot collapses in on itself.

I got the impression that Seán O’Connor wanted to write a book, so he sat down and tried to come up with a story to tell. The plot feels entirely forced. There’s elements that make no sense, and there’s bits that are painfully underdeveloped. How did Phillips best friend end up on Erin’s dad’s team? Why were Phillip’s knives in the boot of his car? A wolf killed her mom? (Ok, this bit is kind of explained at the end, but I actually rolled.my eyes when it was first mentioned). The ending feels rushed and, quite frankly, stupid. I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but another 50-100 pages of plot development could have made this book a lot better.

I don’t read a lot of modern fiction, and I feel like a jerk shit-talking an active writer’s work. I recognize that it takes more work to write a book than to sit here picking it apart, but this novel is an absolute mess. O’Connor has published three other books since this came out, so hopefully they are better.